US to return $480m Abacha loot to Nigeria

The late Sani Abacha. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The US has resolved to return to Nigeria, $480 million believed to have been stolen by former head of state Sani Abacha and his family.

The decision to repatriate the money was taken at a meeting between the US Department of Justice and Nigeria’s Justice ministry.

Nigeria’s acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, also attended the meeting.

Public officials

The Attorney-General, Mr Abubakar Malami, disclosed the promise while commending the US for setting up a Kleptocracy Unit, which will assist to track looted funds and money laundered by public officials from other nations.

The Abacha family and its associates had forfeited more than $550 million and £95,910 in 10 accounts and six investment portfolios linked to them in France, Britain, British Virgin Islands and the US.

The US Department of Justice, in a letter to the Nigeria Federal Government, identified the accounts where the Abacha loot was hidden.

Funds seized

The Swiss government has also so far returned $723 million of stolen funds seized from the Abacha family, to the Nigeria over the last 10 years.

The amount excludes $321 million which the Swiss authorities recently said they were planning to repatriate to Nigeria.

These details are contained in the agreement signed on March 8, 2016, in Abuja by representatives of the Swiss Federal Council and the Nigerian government.

The agreement, titled; Letter of Intent on the restitution of illegally-acquired assets forfeited in Switzerland, was signed by Mr Malami, and the Swiss Head of Foreign Affairs Department, Mr Didier Burkhalter.

Acquired illicitly

The document revealed that $321 million acquired illicitly by the Abacha family, was initially deposited in Luxemburg before being confiscated by the Swiss Republic Judiciary and Canton of Geneva following a December 11, 2014 forfeiture order.

The agreement said funds to be returned to Nigeria would contribute to the implementation of social programmes in “an efficient and accountable way, guaranteed by a monitoring by World Bank.”